Sunday, November 08, 2015

Modi's politics "alienating" minorities, liberal intelligentsia, domestic, foreign opinion, warns "The Economist"

By Our Representative
Less than a week before Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s forthcoming visit to Britain, the influential British weekly “The Economist” has said “it is puzzling that in a few short weeks” the government he heads has “alienated not just India’s non-Hindu minorities and its liberal intelligentsia, but broad swathes of domestic and foreign opinion”. It warned, “The ugliness of Indian politics threatens to scupper Narendra Modi’s grand visions.”
Pointing out that while being elected the Modi government’s “priority was supposed to be rapid economic growth, not sectarian bickering”, the top weekly said in a strongly-worded article titled “Intolerable” that a “sense of alarm has mounted since the lynching in late September of a Muslim man in Dadri, a village in northern India”.
Suggesting that things began to look bad ever since the “murder in August of MM Kalburgi, a writer known for his denunciation of idol-worship”, the article said, ever since, “gruesome intolerance, beef scares and vigilantism have proliferated”, recalling incidents like black ink being thrown over the organiser of a book launch for a former Pakistani foreign minister and on ”a beef-eating legislator in Jammu & Kashmir.”
While allowing the Modi government benefit of doubt of not initiating any of this, the article comes down heavily on the Modi government for its “mealy-mouthed” response. While it has called for “harmony”, it has refrained from “directly criticising the excesses”, the article added.
Especially taking on the Prime Minister, the article said, “Modi himself this week turned the argument around, suggesting the opposition Congress party had no right to preach tolerance, because of the anti-Sikh pogrom over which it presided in 1984”, with the Congress hitting back, seizing his statement as a sign that “the BJP is the tool of extremists in its ranks.”
“Alarmed intellectuals have protested. More than 50 leading historians have expressed collective ‘anguish’; dozens of writers and film-makers have returned government awards; prominent Christians have denounced ‘the growing intolerance in the country’.”
“Perhaps more worrying for Modi are warnings from those concerned about the economic impact of the poisonous mood. An arm of Moody’s, a rating agency, reported that if he cannot rein in his party, Modi risks ‘losing domestic and global credibility’”, “The Economist" said, adding, “Even the governor of the central bank (Reserve Bank of India) has weighed in, to defend India’s ‘tradition of debate in an environment of respect and tolerance’.”
“The Economist” said, “Some of India’s leading businessmen have come out as pro-tolerance”, indicating, this should be read against the backdrop of the manner in which the “business cheered the BJP’s election victory last year, relieved by the end of a ten-year Congress government tainted by corruption scandals and incapable of the reforms the economy needed.”
The weekly said, “The BJP’s election victory last year was attributed to its promise of competence and good governance. It persuaded enough voters that the Hindu-nationalist part of its agenda and the shadow over Mr Modi’s past—allegations of his complicity in anti-Muslim violence in the state of Gujarat in 2002—were marginal.”
However, it said, the elections in Bihar have suggested “Modi’s willingness to play communal politics in Bihar, and his failure to take a firm stand against those perpetrating crimes in the name of Hinduism. Perhaps, with his eye already on re-election at the end of his term by 2019, he feels that he cannot alienate the BJP’s Hindu activists, who are an essential part of his support and electoral machine.”

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